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WTI chief is losing job

The superintendent will be posting the job of director of the Withlacoochee Technical Institute.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000


INVERNESS -- Superintendent Pete Kelly on Friday told Steve Kinard that he will not be directing the Withlacoochee Technical Institute for the next school year.

As a tenured educator, Kinard will have another job if he wants one. But Kelly didn't promise Kinard an administrative position.

The move takes away one of the primary opponents Kelly has faced as he has tried to make major changes at the school.

"I have said that I needed to go in a new direction with WTI. I don't think it's been fully utilized," Kelly said. The director's job will be posted and applications gathered later this month.

Kinard could not be reached for comment late Friday. He reported the news to his staff at the end of Friday's school day.

Kelly said he will meet with Kinard to discuss job possibilities. Kinard recently joined the early retirement program, which gives him five years in which to end his employment with the district. But Kelly said he didn't expect Kinard to retire because he wanted to work for another year.

Kelly has told Mike Miller and Fred Conley -- two of Kinard's three assistant directors -- that they will be assigned to administrative jobs at the institute or elsewhere. Meantime, they will continue working there and preparing for the 2000-01 school year.

The third assistant director at the school, Danny Woods, is retiring at the end of June.

Kelly said Kinard seemed surprised by the news that he would not be reappointed. That news came just a day after Kelly said he believed Kinard had hurt his credibility in the way he foughtthe charter technical career center. The board turned the charter contract down earlier this week.

Kelly said Kinard had told the School Board by letter that he would work with the charter if they wanted that, and then appeared in opposition to it at a board workshop with a number of his staff members and students. The staff presented the board with a letter, signed by nearly everyone who works at the school, asking the board to turn down the charter if the questions weren't answered.

At several School Board meetings, Kinard voiced opposition to the charter, saying that all the improvements Kelly wanted could be accomplished without the charter. When that argument came up again earlier this week, School Board member Patience Nave said she wanted to know why the improvements hadn't been made if that were true.

Kelly said he didn't expect the School Board to argue about his decision to not reappoint Kinard. By law, it is a superintendent's job to make appointments. The School Board can say no, but only for good cause.

The charter issue isn't the only one where Kinard has locked horns with Kelly.

Last summer, Kinard voiced strong opposition to Kelly's plan to move the Renaissance Center from portable buildings to a wing of the institute. Kinard said he didn't want to affect his school's image by sending students there who had been in trouble at their own schools. That plan eventually was abandoned when another piece of the project fell through.

Kinard, 51, started his career in the Citrus schools teaching vocational agriculture at Citrus High School. At 24, he became the evening program director at Withlacoochee, and two years later, the assistant director. He became director in 1985.

Citrus Times stories in 1997 and 1998 revealed problems with the school's finances and its auto mechanics program. Kelly reprimanded Kinard after the first series of stories and his own investigation into the allegations.

After articles on Kinard's violation of school policies, Kinard received a 20-day suspension without pay.

But Kinard's staff has been fiercely loyal. Before the staff learned of Kinard's dismissal Friday, teacher Joe Ciaramitaro told a Times reporter that, despite what Kelly might have thought, Kinard didn't ask his staff to write the letter to the board earlier this week.

The letter asking for the board to make sure all questions were answered about the charter idea was something they wanted to do for the good of Kinard and the school, Ciaramitaro said.

"That was the staff and only the staff," he said.

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